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Thirty Years Later: Guns N’ Roses – G N’ R Lies

When you have a band that puts out something as wildly famous as Appetite For Destruction, it’s almost certain that other releases are going to have to live in the shadows of the giant, and I think it’s far to say that no Guns N’ Roses record had more of an impact than Appetite. Considering this was like the hard rock record of the ‘80s, G N’ R Lies was sure to have less hype around it. That said, it celebrates its thirtieth birthday this year, and there’s a lot to unpack.  Can we really compare the two, though?

For those who don’t know, G N’ R Lies wasn’t really a studio album, despite being treated as the band’s second full length; it was two EPs stuck together which resulted in something that would pass as a shorter full-length album. The first half is a live session comprised entirely of covers (or songs that the band modified), known as Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide, and the second half is four more tracks that were all written with acoustic guitars. Full disclosure, this is actually my favorite release by Guns N’ Roses, which means yes, I like it even better than Appetite For Destruction.  Both halves are almost perfect for what they were in my eyes, so perhaps it’ll be easier to split the description of this into two chunks.

Starting with the live songs, it’s basically older tracks that were made heavier, with a nice dose of ‘80s sleaze dropped into the formula. Seeing that Aerosmith were one of the first bands I ever loved, the “Mama Kin” cover stuck out to me, and this one’s basically the same formula that Steven Tyler and co. used but turned ‘80s. Hollywood Rose’s “Reckless Life” and Rose Tattoo’s “Nice Boys” compliment the Aerosmith classic perfectly, giving these tracks a common theme of struggles intertwined with rebellion. And of course, “Move To The City” is a smoother track, taking a calmer approach than the other three. For the most part, the first half of G’NR Lies is a fastball of action riding on speed. It’s all pretty great, but personally, the second half, known as the acoustic half is the true selling point.

What makes this side stand out so much is the dirtiness within. Other than “Patience,” just about everything on this side is filthy in both production and lyrics. “Patience” was the big radio ballad from this record that contained such a calm and heartwarming message, which became a huge hit. As for the other three? The best way to sum it up is “the most aggressive acoustic songs you’ll ever hear.” Don’t read into the word “aggressive” to mean heavy, because these songs are anything but heavy. What I actually mean is they’ve got so much attitude and hold absolutely nothing back. “Used To Love Her” was another fairly popular track that speaks of killing and burying someone, despite that not actually being what the song is about. Not to mention how fuzzy Axl’s voice was on this. Basic three-chord patterns prove to be effective on this track, despite popular belief. “You’re Crazy” is an alternate recording of the same song from Appetite, but slowed down and played acoustically. As you’d expect, Rose doesn’t use his classic falsettos, rather keeping it more direct and stripped down. Slash’s guitar style and the extra percussion were crucial to keeping it gritty. I personally prefer this version. And lastly, you’ve got the longest song “One In A Million,” which did, in fact, use electric guitars as well, and is constructed with solid rhythms and even more percussion to spice it up. This combo of instruments gave it extra strength.  Despite being a strong song musically, it definitely had a decent amount of backlash.

Actually, that’s the biggest thing to know about this record; the controversy, mostly because of the second half. While Lies may not hold up as well as the debut record, this clearly left an impression that is still talked about today, thanks to this controversy.  Why not start with the elephant in the room? “One In A Million” using some highly offensive slurs with zero signs of subtlety should go without saying. Some say this was satirical, and some think it was done with vicious intent. Know what I say? Enjoy the song if you like the art, and just know the right time to play it. I also mentioned how “Used To Love Her” depicts images of killing an ex-girlfriend, despite actually being about needing to put down Axl’s dog. Either way, this caused the band to receive even more public backlash with accusations of being misogynistic along with being racist and homophobic. If this all wasn’t enough, the album cover raised some eyebrows as well, but that part’s a bit ridiculous if you ask me.

So, thanks to all of this backlash, Lies is still pretty talked about today, despite being thirty years old.  As for the music holding up? I think it’s fair to say that at the very least “Patience” and “Used To Love Her” are still relevant and are on a lot of peoples’ playlists.  The disc as a whole probably wouldn’t hold as much power had it not been for the controversy, but I’ll end it with this: I think the music is good, and it’s worth checking out.  It’s not a difficult one to come across on CD, but as for finding a vinyl pressing, all I’ll say is have fun with that.

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